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Napster Chooses Super Bowl Ad to Start $30m iTunes Fight (UPDATE)

TMO Reports - Napster Chooses Super Bowl Ad to Start $30m iTunes Fight (UPDATE)

by , 8:15 AM EST, February 3rd, 2005

Napster, LLC is planning a US$30 million advertising push in the U.S. over the next six months to fight the dominance of Apple's iPod and iTunes music service, kicking off with a spot during this Sunday's Super Bowl.

The ad backs a new Napster To Go premium service launching Thursday, which lets people transfer up to one million songs to a portable music player for a flat fee of $15 a month.

The 30-second ad, which will be shown once in the third quarter of the NFL championship game, pans across a crowd of people and cheerleaders at Alltel stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. before stopping on the Napster feline mascot who is holding a sign that reads, "Do the Math. How much will it cost to fill up your player?" The spot ends with seven shirtless fanatics who have spelled out "Napster" across their bellies.

The "Do the Math" campaign will target would-be iPod users, in an effort to get them thinking which is better -- $15 a month to listen to all the music you want, or 99 cents for each song from the iTunes Music Store (iTMS).

Napster is asking would-be MP3 player buyers to compare apples and oranges before buying an iPod, as this promotion shows.

Apple's iTunes online music service offers songs on a pay-per-download basis of 99 cents per tune. The Napster model, at $15, is a subscription-based service that cuts off access to listening to downloaded music when the subscriber stops paying the monthly fee.

The Napster subscription service works by essentially putting a timer on the tracks loaded on the player. Users of a Napster-ready music player will have to plug the device into their PCs at least once every 30 days, so Napster can verify over the Internet that users are still paid-up members. Stop paying the monthly fee, and the songs become unplayable.

Napster is hoping customers would rather pay $15 a month to get a million songs than pay $15,000 for 15,000 downloads from iTMS.

A screen shot from Napster's ad

So far, consumers seem to be more interested in the latter, as Apple, its iPod and associated iTMS are the number one selling products in the digital music industry. Apple says consumers are downloading approximately 1.2 million songs from iTMS daily and the company has sold over 10 million iPods since the products original introduction in October of 2001. In comparison, Napster had 270,000 subscribers at the end of 2004, a 50% increase from the calendar third quarter.

Napster's marketing campaign will include more than just the new Napster To Go service. Manufacturers of Windows-compatible digital music players like Creative, iRiver and Samsung will begin Monday promoting the Napster service as being compatible with its players and not with Apple's iPod.

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